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Poster: LAJ Date: Jan 1, 2006 7:03am
Forum: netlabels Subject: Re: It's a man man's world (Essay: There Are Not Enough Woman in Electronic Music. )

Here's the text of a conversation about women and electronic music in general [Source: ]
Don't know how accurate it is or if it's a true refelction of the situation, but some interesting points are made - soemthing to think about:

Authors: Alejandra Salinas, Aeron Bergman and Klaus Oldanberg.

We were in a pub in Glasgow having a few pints. Alejandra brought up how frustrating it is that there are so few women making sounds compared to women making visual art. Since we feel the visual and audio arts are virtually one and the some, this seems puzzling. While some think that electronic music eliminated the figure of the artist, therefore eliminating any gender problematic, Klaus thinks the lack of women in electronic music is a big problem that needs some discussion. We hope to open up a dialogue here.

Klaus> 1. The ratio of men to women in experimental electronic music is disproportionately high compared to other experimental artforms, such as visual arts, photography, dance. Can it simply be true that women are just not interested in experimental music or does this really signify something of major importance?

A & A> It is impossible to consider that women are not interested in an X thing. No person is born not interested in X subject. It is all a learning process, from school, home, friends, relationships, TV. Women learn that certain things are not for them, and certain things are. The things that society says are for women are things that have to do with the body and expressing feeling. That is why women can be dancers, performing artists, and even visual artists that are "in touch with their feelings". Painting, as considered an intellectual activity and of high social status, was not for women in the 19th century. Now, painting is not high status, it is hardly even respected (unless you are a rich and famous painter, and even they are held suspect, oh, and they are mostly men anyway). Now, painting is thought to have to do with creativity, with personal expression, with inner life maybe, in other words, "feminine". Painting is now a lower form of intellectual masculine effort. (The written critique of the same painting usually has more masculine status!) However, overall, on the intellectual side of the art world, woman are making many important discourses, to great effort, that are not being made in electronic music. Do you see groups of people buying records from a woman talking inteligently? No. The few women offering dialogue in electronic music, Miki Yui for example, are not selling very large amounts, and are not exactly ubiquitous on the electronic music festival circuit. Perhaps part of the problem is the lack of intelligent discourse in electronic music (female or otherwise). Its forums are thick with fashion and jargon, real supportive exploration now is going on somewhere else. Visual arts (being VERY sexist as well, obviously) at least encourages women to make art about whatever they are interested in. (Thus freeing the air for actual dialogue and exploration.) Visual Art allows women into schools where they can learn about what it means in historical and critical terms to be a woman (and a human) making art. There are NO sound programs to teach sex roles and women's place in the history of sound. There are NO journals, magazines or forums with any reasonable dialogue about gender. Most discussion of experimental sound is technical, and evades social positioning all together, (aside from current fashion status) in favor of a formal aesthetic with firm roots in dominant genius culture.

Klaus> 2. A large percentage of musicians making experimental electronic music are autodidacts, does this place a gender barrier at the basic level of education? (e.g. artforms such as visual arts, dance etc that are 50/50 between men and women are to a great extent academically "taught" whilst most musicians are self-taught or learn from peers, this 'knowledge' residing in an overtly male culture). To educate oneself means to adopt a whole "cultural language". Is the cultural language of experimental music so overtly patriarchal that it is impenetrable to women? Maybe you could say that this has an historical basis due to the fact that women were excluded from intellectual and scientific life until very recent in history?

Alejandra> Yes of course. Despite many 20th century advances, women are still excluded from intellectual and scientific life. I opened a magazine last week with an article about the most important Spanish filmmakers. And all I saw were pictures of white men smoking cigars. Yesterday I saw a debate forum about Alfred Hichcock's Vertigo. All the film critics were white men smoking cigars. The biggest percentage of teachers I have had have been males, with or without the cigars. Yet, most of my classmates (in art school) have been females, and also my most influential teachers have been females (without cigars). The power is still in the males, they are the heads of department, they are the most important curators, they are the editors of the papers, they are the critics. They happily make the policies that EXCLUDE women from the most "important" positions, including the idea of "genius", thus continuing the cycle, "as if the 20th century never happened" (as quoted from Pauline Oliveros). Using the old Guerrilla girls technique, just to further prove what hardly needs to be proven: There are 73 pictures of males in Issue 209, July 2001 of the Wire, and in the same issue: 13 pictures of women, 5 from one photo of Estonian troubadours, and 7 from one photo montage of the LMC festival where they make sure to say :"The LMC's women, clockwise: ....... " (Where in the Mutek festival (next page) they just say: "Clockwise: ......... " and show all boys.) The other picture of a woman is Paulina Oliveros, who had to prove herself for 40 years to be there. (Furthermore, Oliveros mentioned to us in Mexico City that in her university classes, and her Deep Listening workshops, there are still mostly white boys.) (Ed. Note, Oct.2002 : since last year, the Wire has written several feature stories on females, (Alice Coltrane, Shirley Collins, Susie Ibarra, Joelle Leandre, and others) including a few cover shots. They have also reviewed more women . We hope the Wire read articles such as this one and took them seriously enough to re-evaluate their policies. So far so good...)

Klaus> 3. Psychologists may say that whilst men are interested in the basic function of things, women are more interested in the meaning of things. Does this explain the lack of women at experimental music concerts?, most which seem to be a mind battlefield between male combatants.

Aeron> The lack of women at experimental music concerts is a learned behavior. They are not encouraged to participate or spectate, they are usually not addressed in any way. At a recent electronic music festival in Belgium, out of approximately 15 experimental (and otherwise) electronic music groups performing during the 14 hour festival, there were NO women performers. This is a normal occurrence. If there is only ONE woman performing at a festival like this, it is rare. Dont tell me there are not woman making sounds, it is just that these sounds are not valued enough to pay for them to fly over and perform them. (There are very few token exceptions.) Therefore, the women in the audience sees no representation, hears no encouragement of their presence (unless you include mating style comments), and is tired of fighting for the smallest space in the room, and finally, she does not go again to an "experimental" music concert. This battlefield that you mention is merely the same stupid posturing for the alpha male "genius" position in the tribe. If there were any real experimenting going on in these experimental concerts, it would be a creative space where imagination and opinion are encouraged from everyone at the event, not just the authoritative ranting of the strongest (intellectually at least) male on the well lit pedestal. Function and tactility have very little to do with it. At a tech fair, and in programming circles, there are balanced proportions of men to woman (still higher men, but getting better), because woman can do technical things, duh, when given the space to do their work uninterrupted. (Without the bullshit posturing and ass cracks). What we are often seeing in an experimental concert is a ridiculously primitive affair where the new intellectual has barely passed the enlightenment, and basically is up there smoking a cigar with Freud and other twisted misogynist "intellectuals" of the past thousand years. A woman with half a brain sees this, and unless their thug boyfriend is keeping them there by obligation, clears out of there in a hurry, never to return. ; O

Klaus> 4. To how much of an extent do women have to transcend their gender to "become" electronic musicians?

A & A> None. However, to become "successful" experimental electronic musicians they have to play the game (by fitting subordinately quiet in the structure preset by the dominant group.)

There is no qualification to become a "good" experimental musician (our opinion is to work hard, have vision, and don't take it death serious).

Klaus> 5. How can this disequilibrium be addressed? Should it be addressed? Is the correct strategy for women making experimental electronic music to collectivize (such as Ladyfest in Scotland) and advance the issue through a combination of argument and force, or is it better to adopt a more radical strategy? For example someone like Baudrillard would argue that the real issue that is at stake is 'symbolic' power, "something women have never lacked", and the best strategy is to get away from female alienation, rise above the battle of the sexes and dissolve the symbolic order.

You are right, there is "symbolic" power missing. But there is also a lack of structural support.

Women: BUY MORE RECORDS. (You can have control over what records are available if you assert your opinion by buying records that you like.) MAKE MORE RECORDS. GET ACTIVE. Educate yourselves by reading in between the lines. Dont make woman only electronic music labels and festivals as this only encourages separate yet not equal, apartheid.

Labels: RELEASE GOOD MUSIC instead of fashionable "genius" music, male or female. Dont discourage females by assigning "feminine" values below "masculine" values. Create new markets by appealing to more than just those in immediate cultural power. Think not only of the present, think of the future and how lame you will look for releasing that millionth glitch copycat.

Promoters: Dont be such frightened, yet arrogant, SHEEP. Create new markets by appealing to more than just those in immediate cultural power.

Everyone: Don't accept what you are spoon-fed in flavor of the month doses, especially from so-called experimental circles. (How long will masculine minimalism continue to hold your attention? For fuck sake!)

Klaus> 6. Will the 3rd World War be between men and women?

A & A> No, it is men vs. men as usual.

Alejandra: I think that for some reason there is a clear type of person making electronic music: from a wealthy country, white, male, young. That may be the people that get access to electronic equipment. Only people in a (relatively) wealthy up bringing think about getting a computer. The fact that they are wealthy has more to do with it then being white. Why no women? Because of many reasons. I think that one of them is also that they have less access to electronic equipment. Not having full control of their money is only part of the issue. Mostly they are not give any options (morally and intellectually) and this is where women are situated. Electronic music, like everything else around us, follows the order of the system, leaving predesignated, underprivileged groups of people behind.

A friend of mine from The Basque Country asked me recently: " Wasn't it very hard for you to make electronic music, being from a small village in Spain where you get no information, dont have lots of money, and are a woman from such a conservative culture?" Yes it is.

I am lucky in many ways, I have personal drive to educate myself, and I have supportive people around me. It was very hard for me to build my self esteem (especially coming from a pretty hard-core catholic education). Maybe electronic music has to do with power, and most women are stripped of their power. I somehow managed to find some within.

This post was modified by LAJ on 2006-01-01 15:03:11

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Poster: Allouez Date: Jan 1, 2006 9:27am
Forum: netlabels Subject: Re: It's a man man's world (Essay: There Are Not Enough Woman in Electronic Music. )

My interest in sound is not something I can so readily explain, and so I certainly won’t presume to explain why others may or may not be involved. We’re all a bit more complicated than an idealized political model would make us, and ultimately, yes, we are individuals, people and not representatives. And so while ratios of women vs. men in this art-form is one thing, it is quite another to look at those numbers and not like what we see, and then propound certain findings in social studies as the reasons for this so-called discrepancy. Art is not comparable to climbing a corporate ladder. If you’re interested in an art, do it. If not, don’t. No it won’t be easy and you most likely won’t be recognized. But one-second’s-worth of inward thought should tell anyone who cares that these things aren’t what matter. And I know it’s taboo to site personal experience, but I’ve been discouraged in my interest in sound at every turn, and it hasn’t mattered a bit. I love it and so I do it. Why I love it I couldn’t say, but anyone who’s ever worked at an art knows that the mystery is exactly what one works toward. I just don’t think that this “issue” can be reduced to encouragement/discouragement or to learned behavior, and that to do so is to vastly underestimate and de-value what we are. We’re more than this, and if anyone doubts it, perhaps a career as statistician is in your future, and not the profoundly personal and introspective calling of art.